The Juniors and Seniors at Regis Jesuit High School, in Aurora, Colorado, had an assignment: To spend a total of 60 hours interacting with seniors at a local memory care community. While the students admittedly initially approached the project as a “mandatory assignment”, it quickly turned into a life changing event for them and for the residents of Chelsea Place Memory Care.
The students had, what many might call a “crazy” idea: To hold their own “Olympic Games” at Chelsea Place, including races (wheel chairs included, when needed), hockey, shooting and even the luge. The students would work with the residents, explain each event and gently encourage those who wished and were able to join in the competition.
Word of these unique Olympic Games spread, catching the attention of local CBS Denver, who joined in the fun, bringing in a reporter and cameras to cover the event and interview the students and residents. What they found when they got there was a lively inter-generational mix of folks who were, not only enjoying the lively games, but were enjoying each other even more! The students, expecting to be doing all the explaining and helping, got a surprise from the seniors. “They taught me a lot of things about life and how we should live through and overcome things that are in our way to be great people in this world,” Regis Jesuit Junior, Nic Lippert, told CBS Denver. The residents were apparently keen to make the most of an opportunity to engage with the young students and teach them a few skills of their own. “We’ve taught them Pinochle and we taught them how to bake bread, and you’ve seen everything here today. They’re wonderful kids,” said resident, Jack Toslosky.
At our Anthem Memory Care communities, such as Chelsea Place, we regularly bring local students through our doors to spend quality time with residents. Inter-generational programs are an important part of optimizing the environment for those challenged by dementia, keeping them as engaged with the world around them as possible. And, in the case of the Chelsea Place Olympics, the residents weren’t the only ones who “won gold”. For the Regis Jesuit students, the experience turned out to be much more than the fulfillment of a 60-hour commitment. For student, Justin Lico, the experience was transforming. “I didn’t really come into this wanting to do this, but now maybe in the future I’m going to start doing this more. It’s not about the hours, it’s fun.”